Few neighborhoods supported Eagle County school ballot
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Any time a ballot issue loses by a 55-45 margin or so, that defeat was both broad and deep. That’s the case with the Eagle County School District’s 3B ballot issue.
The numbers are still unofficial, but the ballot question lost by 830 votes Tuesday, with 4,172 yes votes and 5,002 people voting no. Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton on Wednesday released a precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the vote totals, which showed the measure winning in just seven of the 26 precincts that had it on the ballot.
None of the valley’s towns passed the measure. Instead, support was limited to just a few neighborhoods. The measure lost in each of Gypsum’s four precincts, and the tax increase passed in just one precinct each in Eagle, Vail and Avon.
Even where the ballot issue did pass, the vote margins were generally thin. The West Vail precinct approved the ballot issue by just three votes, and Homestead residents voted in favor by 75 votes out of a total of 425 cast.
The vote totals reflect the results of a voter survey the district conducted earlier this year that indicated about 40 percent support for the tax increase. According to Hill Research Associates, the company that conducted the survey, the support and opposition numbers were almost exactly the reverse of what would be needed to pass the ballot issue. In the end, the group campaigning for the measure was able to move the support numbers up about 5 percent, still far short of the numbers needed for a win.
If passed, the measure would have been a permanent tax increase of as much as $6 million per year for the district. Officials said the money was needed to offset expected cuts in state funding next year.
District officials didn’t specify just what programs would be cut if the measure failed but said staff layoffs, program cutbacks and, perhaps, school closures were all being considered.
Those cuts will get specific soon.
“With the failure of 3B, we will begin planning and implementing cuts to our current budget immediately,” district superintendent Sandra Smyser and school board president Connie Kincaid-Strahan wrote in an email Wednesday. “As always, we will keep our budget solvent, and unfortunately, it will now come at a more profound and painful cost.”
Kincaid-Strahan said Wednesday afternoon “nothing is off the table” when it comes to looking at cuts.
“Everything will be looked at,” Kincaid-Strahan said. “It’s not going to be fun or easy.”
Louise Funk, one of the leaders of Citizens for Eagle County Schools, the group that campaigned for the tax increase, said voters who rejected the ballot issue may find the price tag to restore programs will be much higher than the cost of simply maintaining what the district already had.